Recognizing it can space its stores closer together than it originally figured, The Andersons Inc. set out to open its eighth location in the Toledo, Ohio, metropolitan area. The former Audio Plus location came under Maumee, Ohio-based The Anderson's Tireman banner beginning Jan. 2. The former installation and sales office now houses five service bays and a waiting area.
Natural barriers, such as highways and railroad tracks, as well as consumer buying habits, can influence how far customers will travel for automotive service, according to Operations Manager Jim Jones.
``Mechanical service is more of a neighborhood thing,'' Mr. Jones said. ``Once people begin to trust someone, they'll stay in the area.''
The closest two Tireman outlets lie just two miles apart, he said. But a major highway tends to separate the two areas into distinct neighborhoods.
The company said it also is developing plans for its ninth location in the Toledo area.
Tireman outlets primarily sell General, Multi-Mile and Michelin brand tires, batteries and complete automotive service. The company said its annual sales total $11 million.
Bud Wallgren recently opened his sixth Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. outlet in western Washington.
The new, 15,000-sq.-ft. facility, located in Clinton, Wash., on the south end of Whidbey Island, held its grand opening Oct. 25. The outlet contains 12 service bays, including five dedicated to tires, an adjoining truck service area and a parts shop.
During December, Wally Gammage opened his fifth Big O Tires Inc. location in the Denver area in less than three years.
The 18-year industry veteran opened the Broomfield, Colo., location Dec. 7.
``It's a lot of work, but we're happy with the Big O concept,'' Mr. Gammage said. ``And since the company has been taken over by TBC Corp., Big O says it wants to expand, and we're ready to respond.''
There is still plenty of opportunity in the tire business for ``mom and pop'' operations, according to Liberty Tire & Auto owner Randy Liberty, who opened his second about one year ago.
``The tire business is a good business,'' Mr. Liberty said. ``I get tired of going to (association) meetings and hearing it's bad and you can't make a dollar. It's been good to us.''
The five-bay, 5,000-sq.-ft. outlet, located in Airway Heights, Wash., about four miles outside of Spokane, Wash., is co-owned and managed by Mike Keroack.
The 7-year-old dealership is a member of the American Car Care Centers marketing group.
Mr. Liberty said he plans to open a few more stores in the near future.
Doug Britton, his son, Ron, and business partner Jas Grewall, wanted to open their first Big O Tires Inc. store on 75th Avenue in Phoenix. That was before they realized government and construction delays would take more than two years.
On Nov. 10, they opened the Phoenix store. It had taken so long, however, that it became their second location. The three partners had, in the meantime, bought a Big O outlet in Glendale, Ariz., about one and a half years ago because it was a ``great opportunity.''
``The Glendale store is doing well; we've seen sales increases since we purchased it,'' said Doug Britton, who worked for Big O as new store opening specialist.
The Phoenix location held its grand opening Nov. 29 through Dec. 1, selling more than 300 tires and 60 wheels during the three-day weekend, according to Ron Britton, who is managing the new store.
Russell W. Ellis and Charles B. Clark Jr. are in the process of renovating an existing 2,500-sq.-ft. facility to open their first Tire Warehouse Central Inc. and Double Discount Auto Parts franchise in Franklin, N.H.
The franchise is the first tire- related venture for the two. The outlet is scheduled to open during the first week of March with a grand opening scheduled for this summer.
Tire Warehouse operates 27 company-owned stores, 21 franchise locations and 32 auto parts outlets in New England and New York.
Ron Lautzenheiser, the man who's charge at Big O Tires Inc. is gathering new franchisees, decided to open his own outlet Dec. 16 in Fort Collins, Colo.
``If I can confidently sell Big O franchises to others, I should be willing to buy one myself—so I did,'' Mr. Lautzenheiser explained.
The six-bay outlet is jointly owned by Mr. Lautzenheiser, his son, Jim, and Jim's wife, Marci. Jim and Marci are handling the daily operations at the newly constructed location.
Jim Lautzenheiser, who previously worked as a sales representative at Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., said he feels completely comfortable working in the Big O environment. Prior to joining Kelly he was a credit manager in Big O's central region.
Ron Lautzenheiser will continue as vice president of business development at Big O Tires' headquarters in Englewood, Colo.